Future of Farming: Somerset

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset 7:00 pm, 18th March 2020

The hon. Lady knows me well—she tempts me, and I will rise to the bait. Yes, it is appalling that the council sold them off. I was totally against their being sold off. County farms were the way that young people got into farming—the way people could get on the farming ladder. The farms were not big—they were comparatively small—but they gave people a chance. Any county that sold them off is an absolute disgrace. Yes, of course, I know that they wanted the money, but we have stopped an entire generation of young people going into farming. I am 61, and the average age of farmers is my age. How long can we sustain real farmers? I do not think that the Government can be blamed for that—although I would probably quite like to blame them, they cannot be blamed—because it was done under many different Governments over many years. Places like Somerset, the old county of which we were all part in the old days, had a huge amount of farms, and they were enormous and did such a good job. They have gone over a long time, covering three generations—basically since 1945—but the hon. Lady makes an absolutely fair point and I agree with her.

I have one final appeal to the Minister. Sedgemoor auction centre is crucial to farmers, as it is—believe it or not—to all of us here. Whatever our party, whatever our age and however much we are at risk, just being here shows that we are still in session. We must support that and stay in business here, and that goes for our farmers, too: they want to stay in business there.